How to Prepare Your Business for a Crisis
Your business means everything to you. You’ve put your blood, sweat, and tears into every aspect of building and growing it. So, what happens when disaster strikes and you unexpectedly have to close down for a period of time? How will your business cope with a natural, economic, or operational disaster that comes out of nowhere and unexpectedly changes everything?
It’s not something that we like to think about, but it’s important to have a plan in place so that your business can weather the storm and come out of a crisis ready to get back to work. Being informed about how disasters can impact your business and knowing what you can do to prepare for the unexpected will empower you to make decisions that give your business the best chance at surviving a disaster.
Leaving a Disastrous Impact on a Business
Here are a few ways a disaster can strike and leave a lasting impact on your business.
In Oklahoma, we see pretty much everything, from tornadoes with hurricane-force winds to dust storms, floods, wildfires, and earthquakes. That means that every season has the potential for some sort of natural disaster to strike that could force you to shut down operations from anywhere from a few hours (for something like a short power outage) to months or longer (for something like a significant flood or devastating tornado).
There really isn’t anything you can do to prevent natural disasters from occurring, but you can put a plan in place so you’re ready if one impacts your business.
Recessions, pandemics, and upheaval are just a few larger-scale things that can have an impact on the overall economy. During times of economic disasters, you may see a slump in business sales. During these times, it will be crucial for you to come up with creative ways to keep your business open. Be ready to think outside the box to reach your customers and stay relevant.
An operational disaster refers to a crisis that occurs with your specific business, such as losing a significant business manager or director or dealing with a broken contract. In some cases, you can see these types of disasters coming from a distance and take steps to lessen risk to your business.
Advice from Tulsa Business Owners on How to Prepare for a Crisis
Tulsa business owners are savvy leaders who have dealt with all types of crises and still come out strong in the end. We recently spoke with local leaders about what Oklahoma business owners can do to prepare for a future crisis.
Here are five takeaways to consider for your business to ensure success in the future.
Get the Right Insurance
Jeff Burdge, Capital Access Manager for KIVA Tulsa, recommends that business owners make sure they have quality insurance. “Talk to your agent and see what is covered under your policy. If a crisis is to hit again, you want to be up-to-date on what actions your city and state are taking to support local businesses.”
With the right coverage, you may be able to recoup a lot of your costs. This is especially true when it comes to natural disasters. Living in Oklahoma, we’re no strangers to inclement weather. Depending on where your business is located, you may want to look into flood insurance and earthquake insurance, which are not covered under general policies and need to be purchased separately.
Think Outside the Box … Before You’re Forced To
Entrepreneur and co-founder of Black Woman Business Owners of America Charity Marcus notes that Tulsa has seen “a lot of businesses being creative” during times of crisis. She adds that “there are a lot of Tulsa business owners who have the wherewithal to think outside the box and manage a crisis.”
The thing is, you don’t necessarily want to be forced to think outside the box when you’re also dealing with the stress of managing a crisis. By working on creative ideas during times of normalcy, you’ll be more prepared to take a non-traditional approach to meet your clients’ needs if and when a crisis occurs.
Sometimes, taking a unique approach to solving your customer’s problems can end up leading to more business during hard times. It’s difficult to predict how specific companies will weather a disaster, and it can be surprising to find out which businesses are suddenly in demand during a time of crisis.
A great example comes from Lindsay Jordan, founder of the nonprofit Write On Fundraising, who has experienced an unexpected uptick in business during times of crisis. Lindsay says she “had never thought of this company as one that would provide help for people during a crisis.” However, by serving the needs of non-profit organizations that suddenly have to cancel events or face a loss in donations due to an unexpected crisis, Write On Fundraising is poised to give nonprofit leaders the support they need to get through it.
Build Your Business Savings
Of course, the main thing that keeps a business going is money. All business owners should be actively working on building savings so that they have a cushion when things take a sudden downturn. If you currently don’t have a plan for building up your savings, then take some time to develop one. The more money you have on-hand when disaster strikes, the better it will be for your business.
You do not need to have a loan to open your business, and it can be challenging to secure funding as a new business owner. If you don’t have the personal cash on hand, though, there are a few places in Tulsa that can help. Charity (Black Women Business Owners of America) suggests that small business owners look into resources like TEDC and KIVA Tulsa, which both offer nontraditional loans for Tulsa-based businesses.
Jeff (KIVA Tulsa) additionally recommends developing a working relationship with your banker, advising that “having a local small bank or credit union that knows you will be beneficial compared to national banks who have millions of customers.” By forming a relationship with your banker before your business requires additional funding, you can be poised to get a loan if the time ever comes when you need one.
Take a Steady Approach to Fundraising as a Nonprofit
Nonprofits rely heavily on donors and fundraising efforts to support their mission. When an economic disaster strikes, many of these organizations tend to be hit hard by a sudden drop in donations.
We asked Lindsay (Write on Fundraising) how nonprofits should approach a crisis and whether or not it is ok to continue fundraising through a crisis. According to Lindsay, “everyone who is already fundraising should keep fundraising, especially in times of crisis.”
She adds that organizations that do not already have relationships with donors shouldn’t necessarily start trying to fundraise when they’re in crisis mode. Donors will already be stretched thin and will want to focus their efforts on organizations they already have a relationship with.
That’s why it’s important to develop relationships with donors and commit to fundraising all the time. Then, when times get tough, your organization will be well-positioned to continue working with donors.
Connect With Your Community
Being active in the local community is another important element of riding out a crisis. “Here in Tulsa, we see people rally around local businesses to support them,” Charity (Black Women Business Owners of America) notes. “As a business owner, you need to have a group of supporters around you.”
The businesses that survive a crisis are most likely the ones who are actively engaging with their customers. Using social media, email marketing, and old fashioned mailers can be great ways to keep your customers informed about how your business is operating. Plus, you can promote new specials and make announcements. People love supporting their local communities and the businesses that serve them, and a strong social media presence can help you reach your customers when your business faces an unexpected interruption.
An unexpected crisis can present significant challenges for businesses. By taking the time to prepare and focus on finding innovative ways to fulfill their customers’ needs, business owners will be better positioned to stay strong during an emergency.
If you’d like some support with the creative side of your business, give Websites4Good a call! We’d love to learn more about your business and see how we can help your business with branding, website development, social media, and marketing.
About the Author
Kate Williams, Founder, People First Content
Kate Williams is the founder of digital content firm People First Content and has a passion for helping small to mid-size businesses provide value through the content they share with their audiences. Williams has a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from the University of Tulsa where she teaches business writing classes. She has been writing and editing digital content for over 10 years and specializes in researching complex topics and making them easy to understand.